Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina believes she can become world number one in 2018 despite a host of challengers for the coveted top ranking.
Svitolina, currently ranked sixth in the world, was speaking after an impressive 6-2, 6-4 win over Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro in the first round of the Brisbane International on Monday.
The 23-year-old cruised through the first set but was forced to fight harder in the second as Suarez Navarro began to find her range with powerful groundstrokes.
But the Spaniard faltered while serving at 4-5 and Svitolina was able to close out the match in just under 90 minutes.
Svitolina won five titles in 2017 on her way to a career-high world ranking of number three.
She said she had worked hard during the off-season and there was no reason why she could not win a Grand Slam or take the top ranking.
She edges Suarez Navarro 6-2, 6-4. pic.twitter.com/sM3gatGUKk
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Svitolina said her ability to raise her game to see off someone as dangerous as Suarez Navarro showed she was also capable of taking the next step.
“This match was a good example that I can play a good level of tennis, a high level of tennis,” she said.
“So I will try to continue to work and to, you know, to just be focused on these kind of things.
“That’s what’s important for me – and then the Grand Slam and number one is all going to come if I have my game, if I’m healthy, if I’m playing my best.”
Svitolina will take on Ana Konjuh in the second round following the Croatian’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens on Sunday.
A miserable run by sixth-seeded Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic continued when she lost to Belarus qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich.
— WTA (@WTA) January 1, 2018
Mladenovic, who has not won a match since Wimbledon, raced through the first set before Sasnovich fought back to win 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
In other first-round matches, 2012 champion Kaia Kanepi from Estonia beat Russia’s Daria Kasatkina 6-2, 6-2.
Kanepi’s compatriot Anett Kontaveit beat England’s Heather Watson 6-0, 6-3 and Sorana Cirstea of Romania saw off American Jennifer Brady 7-6 (3), 6-1.
In the men’s draw Matthew Ebden set up a second-round clash with fellow Australian Nick Kyrgios when he beat Frances Tiafoe of the USA 6-3, 6-2.
There was better news for the Americans when Ryan Harrison downed Argentine Leonardo Mayer 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 to book a clash with second seed Andy Murray.
Romania’s Halep, who will be seeking her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open in two weeks’ time, struck 12 winners to blitz the 110th-ranked American in one hour and nine minutes.
“We had a big crowd, which was nice to play in front of,” Halep said after her first-round match in the southern Chinese city, where she won in 2015.
Halep won the first set with the help of an aggressive forehand, and then opened the second set with a crunching backhand winner down the line before running away with the match.
“It’s always nice to play here in Shenzhen,” said Halep, who next faces Duan Ying-Ying in round two. “I won a title here three years ago already. It’s my first victory this year as number one in the world, so I’m just happy and enjoying the time.”
The world No. 1 does not have a clothing sponsor after her partnership with adidas ended on December 31, 2017 and she said she has no news regarding who she plans on signing with.
“With adidas it’s finished. Yesterday was the last day i was wearing adidas clothes. I have nothing now,” said Halep. “My manager is looking after this so I have no idea. It’s just the first day of the year and I’m looking forward to see what the future gives me and I’m okay.”
Meanwhile five-time Grand Slam champion Sharapova, making her Shenzhen debut, dispatched Romania’s world number 56 Mihaela Buzarnescu 6-3, 6-0 in an hour and 20 minutes.
The Russian, who is embarking on her first full season since returning from a 15-month doping ban in April, sealed her straight sets win after striking 18 winners to 20 unforced errors.
“It’s quite remarkable to see a full stadium for a first round,” she said. “It’s my first time here, so I didn’t know what to expect.”
Sharapova, currently ranked No. 59 in the world, next plays USA’s Alison Riske in the second round.
Maria Sharapova is not sure the part she filmed will end up appearing in the upcoming heist comedy film Ocean’s 8, but says she enjoyed the experience of shooting her brief cameo.
An all-female reboot of the Ocean’s trilogy will be released in June, starring an A-list cast that includes Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson and Rihanna.
Sharapova, as well as Serena Williams are supposed to make cameo appearances in the film.
Speaking at the Shenzhen Open following her opening round win over Mihaela Buzarnescu, Sharapova said of her experience on the Ocean’s 8 set: “It’s (the role) very small, I don’t even know if I’m in it, but I filmed it.
“I think in the end you don’t know if your part will be actually in the movie. It was a really nice invitation. The director was very nice to work with and I was alongside very talented individuals so it just, it’s a different experience, it’s very different from what I do and I enjoy being part of those things.
“I haven’t seen the trailer yet, and I certainly haven’t seen the movie, I’ll see it probably when you see it, so we’ll see if I even made it. But I’m in the credits, so that’s a good start.”